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Welcome back for Part 2 of Southwest Palooza, a jammed packed continuation of our epic road trip adventures through New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.
In our last episode, we had just finished up our chilly Christmas Holiday in New Mexico and packed up for our next stop in Durango, Colorado.
This episode is chock full of even more fun shit to do, picking up where we left off on our way to southern Colorado and concluding with a parade of incredible national parks throughout Utah with stays in Moab and Zion.
Home Base #3: Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) in Durango, Colorado
We decided to stay off the beaten path since Durango is a well known and well preserved old west town with thin walls, crowded bars and more than one brewery near their famous train station smack dab in the middle of downtown. Our pick was a modern guest house just a few peaceful miles away from the action.
Durango Silverton Steam Train in Durango, Colorado:
Make reservations in advance and choose your own seats in the luxury passenger bar car, Cinco. They also offer open air cars which could also be fun if you don’t mind a light sprinkling of soot and constant blasts of cold frigid mountain air. You can add a sandwich option to your tickets. Yay!
Best views from our car at the END of the train with cocktail in hand. The ride is a little bumpy due to the narrow gauge of the tracks but you can rest assured that this winter wonderland trip is only half as long and won’t be heading all the way to Silverton. Check the website for the winter round trip excursions. Polar Express short evening option for the kiddies.
Mesa Verde National Park in Mesa Verde, Colorado:
Incredibly preserved cultural site with dozens of sights and walking tours to take. The Spruce Tree House trail remains open during the winter and is staffed with a ranger to answer questions. Many of the other smaller sites are situated just off the main drive while larger sites are still viewable from the road or lookouts during the snowy months and absolutely worth a visit. Impossible living conditions make for exciting views.
Cortez Muffler creations in Cortez, Colorado:
Find this crafty detour along Highway 145, turn West onto Country Road P
Four Corners at the intersection of AZ, UT, NM, CO:
This place may look closer than it is on the map so check out NavajoNationParks.org to get the best directions from your location. This place is out in the middle of nowhere. Services are super limited so come prepared with ample food and water and fill up on gas whenever you can.
Brews & Chews:
Serious Texas BBQ in Durango, Colorado:
Casual eating with a roll of paper towels on every table. Stopped here on our first night in town after unloading our gear for an easy meal of brisket and brews.
Ska Brewery in Durango, Colorado:
Our favorite beer from Durango with a great repurposed warehouse location where you can see the bottling line in action, order some fresh pints, grab a gourmet pizza or sammy and pick out a few six packs from the cooler. This was the beer that we stocked up on to bring back home but you don’t have to since Ska has finally entered the California market a few happy months ago.
Carver Brewing Co. in downtown Durango, Colorado:
We hit up Carver for a hearty breakfast and a growler of pale ale to-go. They were super busy so we ate at the bar with no wait.
Steamworks Brewing Co in downtown Durango, Colorado:
Totally crowed. Huge place with great atmosphere and a ton of seating but we still had to wait 30 minutes for a table. Great menu options with big portions and cold 6-packs available to-go. Kid friendly.
Diamond Belle Saloon in downtown Durango, Colorado:
Historic Stater Hotel home to this infamous wild west ragtime piano bar with costumed dance hall girls right out of a western novel by Louis L’Amour who was a regular hotel guest in a room right above the rowdy saloon. For a trip back in time check out their sunday brunch.
Jean Pierre Bakery in downtown Durango, Colorado:
Stop by for a early breakfast before hopping the steam train to Silverton. If you oversleep like we did then just run it and grab a fresh pastry and a latte on your way to the station.
Home Base #4: Cliffrose Flats in Moab, Utah
Another score from VRBO, the Cliffrose Flats compound was a modern slice of adventure friendly heaven. We stayed in the Paradox flat which was light and airy with a clean new vibe. Laundry facilities available onsite and indoor bike storage locker thoughtfully placed between units for those hardcore enthusiasts. A common area roof top patio for a neighborly evening under the stars.
Off-roading in Moab, Utah:
Check out DiscoverMoab.com for a listing of tour operators and pick out a guided Hummer Tour thru Hell’s Revenge or a rent a Polaris Rzr and take it out for a spin in the beautiful back country just outside Arches National Park. No off-roading inside the park. Be sure to add the insurance if you rent your own vehicle cause these will run you about 20 grand to replace if you total it off a cliff. We opted for the guided Rzr tour when our Hell’s Revenge excursion was cancelled due to dangerous icy conditions.
Arches National Park near Moab, Utah:
Open on New Years Day! Stop in the visitor’s center for a passport stamp and clean restrooms. Start by heading off to the Windows section of the park for a hike on the Windows Loop Trail for a perfect photo op at sunrise. Then take your time meandering through the park stopping at each lookout and posing for a proper selfie with an amazing backdrop. Don’t forget your tripod and and extra batteries for the GoPro.
Don’t miss the Delicate Arch overlook. The viewpoint is still miles away from this iconic arch but hiking there wasn’t in the works for us this time around.
Canyonlands National Park, Islands In the Sky District:
Take Highway 191 North (40 minutes) to Highway 313 to visit one part of this vast park.
Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab, Utah:
That scene from Thelma & Louise where they cliff dive with their convertible in the Grand Canyon was actually filmed here at Dead Horse Point. Visit while you can, the ledge road to this picturesque cliff is slowly eroding away along with our chances for a famous movie scene reenactment if indeed you ever need to outrun the law.
Goblin Valley State Park:
This otherworldly park is home to strange formations that surely come alive under the moonlight and scurry about. While you’re visiting be sure not to knock over any goblins like those jackass Boy Scout leaders who filmed themselves destroying public land.
Capital Reef National Park in Utah:
Scenic Highway 24 takes you right through the highlights of his national park. Stop by the visitor’s center for a clean restroom and some park swag but save this scenic highway for the drive day to your final destination at Zion National Park. Connect to Highway 12 – Journey Through Time Scenic Byway for a drive day packed full of once in a lifetime vistas.
Hollow Mountain Gas Station in Hanksville, Utah:
Stop to fill up here and grab a soda from the store located inside the mountain. Hey that’s a big cave!
Brews & Chews:
Moab Diner in Moab, Utah:
Open early for breakfast and late for dinner. 50’s style diner with solid breakfast menu and Blue Bunny ice cream. We went twice for breakfast since our other options were seasonally closed for winter.
Pasta Jay’s in Moab, Utah:
Classic italian fare with take-out available. After a rigorous day of off-roading we totally went for take-out and enjoyed our dinner pajama style in front of the TV.
Blu Pig in Moab, Utah:
BBQ and fine bourbon selection. Open for dinner on New Year’s Eve.
Moab Brewery in Moab, Utah:
Closed for cleaning when we swung by so can’t speak to the brews but always a possibility.
Thunderbird Restaurant in Mount Carmel, Utah:
Don’t miss this Ho-Made Pie shop attached to the Thunderbird Lodge. Find it at the intersection of Highway 89 and Route 9. Grab a fresh rum pecan pie to take with you to the Desert Pearl Inn for your adventures in Zion National Park.
Fire up the bidet in the master bath and power wash your lady bits just in time for a nice dinner.
Home Base #5: Desert Pearl Inn at Springdale, Utah:
For the last 48 hours of this epic road trip poney up for the river view suite and treat yourself to a relaxing soak in the ginormous tub for two. Just beware of the highly polished angled tub walls which will completely prevent you from safely exiting this cauldron of luxury.
Need to freshen up after a day of leisurely hiking in Zion? Fire up the bidet in the master bath and power wash your lady bits just in time for a nice dinner. Make sure to schedule your dinner reservations at the Bit & Spur later in the evening so you can max the relax and enjoy the spectacular sunset showing from your balcony.
Zion National Park near Springdale, Utah:
Drive once through the entire park on Zion Park Scenic Byway and then turn around and do it all over again. Check out essential hikes like the Emerald Pools near the Zion Park Lodge and the Riverside Walk which takes you to the entrance to the Narrows. Stop by the visitor’s center and ask about which trails are open as many of the trails can become extremely dangerous when icy so heed any warnings. Keep an eye out for wildlife on the roads. Note that there is a long dark 1.1 mile tunnel taking you inside and through Mount Carmel.
Bryce Canyon National Park in Bryce Canyon, Utah:
Hoodoo filled canyons are the bomb when covered in snow! If you can’t find time to visit Bryce this time around see if you can squeeze in a quick walk to the Mossy Cave on your drive down from Moab. Mossy Cave is covered in delicate green moss year round and a winter wonderland of icicles soon after the first freeze.
Brews & Chews:
Oscar’s Cafe in Springdale, Utah:
Real tasty mexican food. We went for dinner and back again for breakfast. Good beer selection. Always a line but worth the wait. Food pickins can be slim in winter with seasonal closures but Oscar’s is always there for us.
Bit & Spur Saloon in Springdale, Utah:
Upscale saloon with interesting artwork on the walls and satisfying food with a full bar.
Check website for their scaled back winter hours.
That’s all folks
Well that’s all there is to this little 4,500 mile loop we like to call our Southwest Palooza. There was definitely a shit-ton of rad detours and side trips we had to leave on the cutting room floor simply due to lack of time so we’re saving those gems for our next go round.
But if we made any glaring missteps with the itinerary the Travel Community demands that YOU help out your fellow adventurer and call us out in the comments section below. Hashtag your rockin’ southwest photos with #DoFunShit and keep the dream alive.
Lena & Kristina